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Things I’ve wondered for a long time and have finally remembered to look up:

Why is Rhode Island called Rhode Island when it isn’t an island? My wife looked this up on her smart phone after I posed it to our geography-loving nephew at lunch. Now we know. Thanks to Trivial Pursuit, I knew that the full name of the state was Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, but I didn’t realize that one of the islands in Narragansett Bay, the one on which Newport is located, was actually called Rhode Island (it’s now called Aquidneck).

Is Donner Pass named after the Donner Party, or are they called the Donner Party because the pass that did them in was called Donner Pass? The answer to this one gives me the creeps. The pass used to be called something different (Truckee, I think). After the Donner Party (so called for one of its members) tried to get through and, notoriously, starved to the point that some of them ate each other, it started to be called Donner Pass. What a charming thing to name a part of your state after. Still, I’ve wondered that for ages and now I finally remembered it while I was sitting in front of a computer.

Joy says that Lawrence Block says the internet will doom bar arguments. The master of the bar argument, Donald E. Westlake, Block’s late fellow great writer of comic mysteries set in New York, wasn’t going down without a fight. In his last Dortmunder novel (sadly, his last of all), the nameless “regulars” who always carried on hilariously fruitless barside debates in those books were arguing about the internet, and it was clear that none of them would be able to find a webpage with two hands and a map. And I generally think of a question for the umpteenth time, and then by the time I get to a computer, I’ve forgotten it again. But with more and more of us carrying internet-ready computers in our pockets, Block may be right.


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